Are we really eating plastic?

This week, I asked my Twitter followers to send me their best fish and seafood images. The results were absolutely stunning. We really are in love with this stuff. From king prawns in Spain, to mussels in Croatia you guys really came up with the goods!

I’m not sure about you, but I often choose seafood as the healthier option. Meat is much higher in cholesterol and saturated fats, so I look to seafood for fresh, delicious alternatives. And I’m clearly not alone; *drools over all the sexy seafood images* But can we be sure that fish is always the healthy alternative?

Just LOOK at that cod!

After returning from my travels, where I took part in various beach clean-ups in Asia, I realised there is actually lots of plastic and litter in our oceans. But how much? Is it a big problem? Are fish and shellfish actually consuming it? Does that mean we’re eating plastic? And is how bad for our health?

So. Many. Questions.

I did some digging around to come up with the answers. Here’s what I found…

How much plastic is in our oceans?

I found some facts to get started:

There are 5.25 trillion (yes, TRILLION) pieces of plastic in the ocean, and this is INCREASING.

By 2050 (just 33 years time) the oceans will hold more plastic than fish, as it’s estimated that 8m tonnes of plastic goes into the sea each year.

Single-use plastic is the worst offender: plastic bags, straws, bottles, and coffee cups.

How crazy is that? Some of those numbers are difficult to comprehend. Especially when, in our Instagram-society, we’re bombarded with picture-perfect beach scenes and, sadly, that’s just not the whole reality. Plastic is clearly making its way into the sea in so many forms. And the irony is that most of it’s only stuff we use for less than five minutes. Plastic straws?!

Another fun fact I found: There’s so much plastic in the ocean that it has actually formed a new continent. Yes, in the Pacific Ocean (the huge expanse between Australia and North/South America) there’s a mass of plastic waste the size of Europe.

Just let that sink in for a second…

Are fish and shellfish eating plastic?

As plastic never rots or decomposes, it just breaks down into smaller pieces (also known as micro or nano plastics), YEP, sea mammals, fish and shellfish confuse microplastics with sea plankton and eat it.

Researchers even have evidence of sea plankton (the very bottom of the food chain) eating nano plastics.

More facts that back this up:

Microplastics have been found inside mussels and oysters sold in supermarkets. Plymouth Uni reported that plastic was found in a third of UK-caught fish; including cod, haddock, mackerel and shellfish.

A quarter of the fish bought at local fish markets have plastic in their digestive tracts. Other research has shown fish ‘eat plastic like teenagers eat junk food.

Microplastics are found in 63% of the prawns in the North Sea and 83% in Dublin Bay prawns in Scotland.

This is just some of the research out there, but I guess what we really need to know is, how on earth is this affecting our health? If at all?

So what are the health implications?

The answer to this is honestly confusing. Some reports show that plastics contain a cocktail of chemicals and that these are absorbed into the human bloodstream via fish consumption. And that this cocktail of chemicals contains all sorts of hazardous materials; like potentially carcinogenic hormone disruptors that can affect fertility, cause developmental disorders, and affect our livers and immune systems.

And on the other hand, experts say the levels of plastic in our bodies is not yet a cause for alarm, but admit that it is on the rise.

So it may be harming us, it may not be harming us. It also depends on how much seafood you eat. But whilst watching and reading all that I could on the topic for this post, one thing is clear: if it’s not killing us yet, it’s definitely killing our marine life. At an alarming rate too…

Think twice next time you ask for plastic. #plasticocean

A post shared by Mike Johnson (@mikejohnsonvideo) on

For me, this is as good a time as any to start re-thinking our obsession with plastic.

Continuing our love affair with seafood

I’m not in any way suggesting that we stop eating seafood. For me, that’s literally unimaginable.

It’s clear the potential negative effects to our health have yet to be proven. So, I plan to continue making informed and conscious food choices, whilst cutting down my ‘plastic habits’ as much as possible.

My sheer love for seafood is my driving force to keep the oceans as healthy as possible. And I want as many of you as possible to join me and ditch single-use plastics for good!

Here are some tips to get started…

Reducing our plastic consumption

It’s clear this needs to start on land, in our everyday lives.

As consumers living in a ‘throwaway’ society, we need to drastically change our approach to single-use plastics, to kick-start the process of changing the system for good.

  • BAN plastic bags in ALL forms and replace with cotton reusable bags, and carry them with you ALWAYS!
  • SAY NO to plastic straws. I know we have become so accustomed to them but they’re so unnecessary and not worth it.
  • ONLY USE a reusable coffee cup; many people are not aware that ‘paper’ coffee cups actually have a plastic liner and are NOT recyclable.
  • DITCH all beauty products that contain microbeads.
  • QUIT cling film. I know to most foodies that may seem unthinkable, but it is avoidable!
  • REFUSE plastic cutlery at all costs! Eat with your hands if you have to!

I’m taking part in Plastic Free July

If this all seems a little overwhelming, I’m putting myself out there and challenging myself to a ‘Plastic Free July’, to show my support for the movement against single-use plastics.

Read my first Plastic Free July post to find out how you can support me and join the challenge yourself #ChooseToRefuse #SayNoToPlastic and ultimately, help #SaveOurOceans.

Thanks so much for all your stunning seafood images. If you want to check out the image contributors, visit their links below:

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